KOLKATA/DHAKA • A powerful cyclone tore into eastern India and Bangladesh yesterday, destroying mud houses and embankments and whipping up a storm surge along the coast, officials said, after millions of people were moved out of its path.
At least one person was killed, a 70-year-old man hit by a falling tree in Bangladesh’s coastal Bhola district, a police official said. The low-lying country has evacuated 2.4 million people to shelters.
Another 650,000 people have been moved to safety in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, the authorities said, an operation carried out amid surging coronavirus infections.
It was too early to estimate a toll on life or damage to property.
Cyclone Amphan began moving inland with winds gusting up to 185kmh, Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director-general of the India Meteorological Department, told reporters.
Dr Mohapatra said the storm surge could rise to around 5m in the Sundarbans delta, home to around four million people and thick mangrove forests that are a critical tiger habitat.
“Our estimate is that some areas 10km to 15 km from the coast could be inundated,” he said.
On the Sundarbans’ Ghoramara island, resident Sanjib Sagar said several embankments surrounding settlements had been damaged, and some flooding had started.
“A lot of houses have been damaged,” he told Reuters by phone.
Television footage showed strong winds uprooting trees and electricity poles in Kolkata.
A home ministry official said the authorities in West Bengal and neighbouring Odisha had struggled to house thousands of evacuees as shelters were being used as coronavirus quarantine centres.
Police in West Bengal said some people were unwilling to go to the shelters because they were afraid of being infected by the coronavirus and many were refusing to leave their livestock.
“We have literally had to force people out of their homes, make them wear masks and put them in government buildings,” said a senior police official in Kolkata.